NBC’s last two sitcoms (both airing February 16) have that Honda Fit energy, but inside it’s just microwaves. There’s Nahnatchka Khan’s “Young Rock,” a Dwayne Johnson autobiographitcom directed by Dwayne Johnson that jumps willy-nilly between the actor’s childhood, teenage years, college life and his 2032 presidential campaign (yes, really). Then there’s Kenan, the long-awaited Kenan Thompson and Jackie Clarke, a single-camera sitcom with multi-camera energy that follows a widowed father (Thompson) as he raises his two daughters while anchoring the second show. Atlanta’s most popular morning show. Each has their own charms, thanks in no small part to the seemingly bottomless tubs of charisma of the show’s respective leading men, but they have more than star power in common. They are both promising but uneven, energetic yet familiar. And each could learn a little something from the other, for one bites a lot more than he can chew, and the other seems to pretend to be nibbling.
Let’s start with the first one. It’s handy to have switched to a food metaphor, as Johnson and Khan would love to give you the chance to smell what “Young Rockcooking. The ups and downs of young Dwayne’s life (played, in ‘Moonlight’ style, by Adrian Groulx, Bradley Constant and Uli Latukefu as a child, teenager and college student) are, in a sense, not all of this unlike what many children experience. He has loving parents (Joseph Lee Anderson and promising newcomer Stacey Leilua) and a tough and boisterous extended family, a crush and a best friend, money troubles and a feverish desire to fit in. But his father and grandparents are royalty in the professional wrestling world, so his wacky uncles are people like Andre the Giant (Matthew Willig) and The Iron Sheik (Brett Azar), and his difficulties fitting in mostly stem from his father’s mouth writing checks that Dwayne can’t cash and the fact that his physical appearance is such that everyone at their high school – including the principal – p teaches he shoots a “21 Jump Street”. These formative experiences are told to the public, and I cannot stress this enough, in the context of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s 2032 presidential campaign, offered in the form of an interview with the “actor turned journalist” Randall Park (from Khan’s “Fresh Off The Boat”), at campaign events or at big speeches – for example, when he announces his choice for the position of vice president.
Needless to say, that’s a lot for a half-hour comedy to handle. The desire to do it all at once – the speculative stuff of the future presidential campaign, the dangers of high school, time spent as a kid with legendary professional wrestlers, heartfelt family history, college football – ensures that Few Aspects of the Story has the time it takes to truly engage viewers. And the surreal, unnecessary, but admittedly entertaining framing device feels more like a setup for a digital “Saturday Night Live” short film than anything else. (It should be noted that this element of the premise doesn’t bear a small resemblance to that of Ilana Peña’s pretty Disney + series “Diary Of A Future President”, which makes up for its lack of The Rock with excellent writing and 10 times the concentration.)